The story starts as we see Charles Bovary entering a new school in the town of Rouen in
France. People laugh at him because he isn’t sure what to do and how to act. He is the son of a
doting mother and a very strict father. Charles isn’t sure what to do with his life and
therefore does as his mother advices him; to go to medical school. He fails at first because he
didn’t work for it in class, but the second time he does and he passes the exam and becomes a
doctor in the town of Tostes. He is well liked in town because people see him as a hard working
man. Because he is still single and his mother thinks he shouldn’t be, she arranges a marriage
only for the money with an ungly widow, Heloise Dubuc.
One day Charles is called to a farm because someone
has broken his leg. On the farm he meets Emma Rouault, the daughter of the farm owner. He likes
her very much and keeps coming back to her father to check up on his leg, even after his leg has
fully healed. They get on very well and they dicide to get married, even with protest of his
former wife which dies soon after because of a stroke. They arrange a huge wedding and loads of
people are invited to it. They party on for days and days and there’s food enough for a whole
army. Because his practice isn’t where the farmer lives, they return to Tostes. And this is
where are the misery starts for Emma. When Charles is out in the country for house visits, Emma
just sits at home doing nothing. All she does is read, watch the rain and she used to play the
piano, but quit because she feels that nobody listened to her anyway. She hoped to get the love
from her husband in the same way that the main characters in the novels she read get love, but
that doesn’t happen. She is bored to death. She is starting to get irritated by Charles’ way
of living and the way he behaves sometimes.
One day they go to a party of the maquis and there
she meets the life that she wants to live. She doesn’t want Charles to dance because she feels
that it would embarras her and instead dances the night away with a Viscount and meets all the
rich. When they return back home, she becomes even more miserable because she misses all those
things now. Charles notices this and talks with another doctor and together they conclude that
a change of scenery might be good for her and they decide to move to Yonville. At the time that
they move, Emma discovers that she is pregnant.
In Yonville, life isn’t that much different from
the life she’d lived before, but now she meets someone who is interested in the same things as
she is; Leon Dupuis, a clerk. Emma is now close to giving birth to a baby and she is hoping that
it’s going to be a boy so that he can be strong and free, but her hopes are lost when it turns
out that it is a boy; Berthe. As time passes, Emma continues her life and finds out that she is
in love with Leon, but they don’t start any relationship. Eventually, Leon moves to Paris to
study there and Emma is again left in misery. Rodolphe meets Emma and she really is
attracted to her, but in a sexual way; he thinks that Emma is beautiful. He manages to talk Emma
into seducing her and it works. Emma starts to get more and more interested in Rodolphe and they
start spending more and more time togeter, for example, they go to the agricultural show
together. Emma starts meeting him in secret and he even comes to their house where they make
love. Rodolphe decides that to keep the love going, he should leave for a few weeks and that’s
what he does. And it seems to work, because after six weeks, Emma can’t wait to see him again.
One day when Emma decides to go back to Rodolphe, she passes passed by Bines, who knew that she
had nothing to look for over that side of town because Rodolphe’s house was the last one there
he knew that she wasn’t supposed to be there, so she just made a story and she hoped that he
would fall for it. Now everytime that Charles and she were somewhere and Binet was around, she
would started acting rather strange and Charles definately noticed it. But Charles thought that
it was just again related to her so called illness.
Because Charles wants to keep up with the latest ‘technologies’ in these days and because
Emma encourages him to, he buys himself a book about how to cure club-foots and finds it really
interesting. He has this friend called Hippolyte and he has a club-foot, so he decides to give
it a try on him. But it fails miserabely and he fears for his good reputation. Another doctor
later has to be called in to amputate Hippolyte’s leg.
Madame Bovary is in real money problems now, and because she can’t take it
all any more and because she really loves Rodolphe very much, she wants to
run away with him. Rodoplhe isn’t too sure about this and tries to first
make her think decently about it and when she says that she’s curtain, he
decides to stretch the date that they are planning to leave as much as
possible. He runs away from her and decides not to show up as planned, so
he writes her a letter explaining why she shouldn’t run away and why he also
So, Rodolphe writes her the letter, which he has great difficulty with. He
asks Girard to send it to her together with some fruit, and when she reads
the letter, she’s so shocked and saddened that she becomes incredibly ill
and almost dies of this. The only thing she can do now is rest.
Slowly she starts feeling better, but she’s still too weak to do anything.
Again, as before, they still have the same bills to pay. This is because
Emma always had to have the latest of the latest and she never paid on the
spot, but she always put it on the bill and that bill was never paid. And
now the medicaments also have to be paid for…
Charles thinks that a trip to the theatre would do Emma good, because she’s
now strong enough to walk on her own feet. Emma really loves the play and
she constantly keeps on imagining that she is the main character and that
she just could fly away. When Charles goes out to talk to someone and comes
back, he says that Leon is also in the theatre. After the play, they all go
out for a drink and they talk about how everything’s going and of course,
Emma’s health. Leon mentiones that there’s another performance on in two
days. Emma would love to go, but Charles says that he has his work waiting
at home and that it’s not possible for him to stay there. Leon makes an
offer that Emma can stay over here for two days and stay with him in Rouen.
Charles thinks about it and finally agrees to it.
Leon is finally back again with Emma and they talk about their sorrow and
sadnesses and share it with eachother. They decide to meet up the next day
again at the church. The next day, Leon is there first and he decides to
check out the church. When he enters the building, the priest comes up to
him and asks him if he wants to have a tour of the building. Charles says
no. Later on, Emma shows up and again the priest comes up to her with the
same question. Leon says no again, but Emma says that she would love to.
He gets really annoyed with the damn tour and calls a cab and takes Emma
Many hours later, they stop in Beauvoisine district and Emma steps out and
enters the inn. Once in the inn, she get the word that she has to go to
Monsieur Homais as soon as possible. So she goes there and they tell her
that Charles’ father has suddenly died. What has to be done now, is that
all of the will has to sorted out. They need a good lawyer, but not an
expensive one and so they decide to call upon Leon. He offers to go, but
she says that it would be better that he keeps on eye on the business and
that she’d rather go on her own. So she leaves for Rouen for three days.
She of course has the time of her life in Rouen with Leon and they live
their lives in Hotel de Boulonge.
Emma still thinks that she doesn’t see Leon often enough and so decidedes
to take up the piano and will now (or at least she says) take private
lessons in Rouen.
She visits Leon more often, and when they part again for the week, she’s
already longing for the next Thursday that they will meet again.
One day a man comes to their house and he gives her a letter from Monsieur
Vincart of Rouen with a bill of 700 francs. She said that she would pay it
next week. The next day she gets another letter from Maitre Haring saying
that she has to come to Monsieur Lheureux to pay all of the bills that she
never paid for. He wants the money now, but of course she doesn’t have it. She was given a
piece of paper that said that she had to pay the money (8000 francs) within 24 hours otherwise
all of her belongings would be sold until the sum reached.
Of course, she wasn’t able to pay all of this an the next day, when Charles went out, gentlemen
came in and took notes of all the things in her house. She didn’t want this to happen, so she
went out to Maitre Guillaum. He was quite friendly and was willing to pay the money as long as
he could have her as a prostitute. She didn’t want this and quickly ran out. Now the only one
that was left was Rodolphe. She came into his nice house with loads of expensive stuff and when
she asked for the money, he said that he didn’t have it. She was so incredibly angry, that she
just took something, threw it away, ran out of the house all the way to the pharmacist’s shop,
stuck her hand in a pot of blue stuff and swallowed it. Charled had no clue where the hell she
was hanging out and went looking for her. He couldn’t find her and when he came back home, there
she was laying on her own. She wanted to be left alone to let the poison work in slowly. And it
did. She started feeling really sick, throwing up like a maniac and getting weaker and weaker.
Charles called all of the best doctors and even he himself could do nothing. After a few hours,
she passed away.
They finally prepare for the funeral. She got burried and Charles’ saddnes was unmeaserable.
People started ignoring him at all costs, he had no friends left. One day, Berthe wanted to play
with him, she gave him a friendly push and he fell to the ground; he was dead.